Ontario Teachers' shops stake in Leafs, Raptors

TORONTO Mon Mar 14, 2011 5:51pm EDT

Fans enter the Air Canada Centre before the Toronto Raptors and Charlotte Bobcats NBA basketball game in Toronto March 13, 2011. The Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan is looking to sell its 66% share in Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment (MLSE),which owns the Raptors, Maple Leafs and the Air Canada Centre, amongst several other assets. REUTERS/Mike Cassese

Fans enter the Air Canada Centre before the Toronto Raptors and Charlotte Bobcats NBA basketball game in Toronto March 13, 2011. The Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan is looking to sell its 66% share in Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment (MLSE),which owns the Raptors, Maple Leafs and the Air Canada Centre, amongst several other assets.

Credit: Reuters/Mike Cassese

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TORONTO (Reuters) - The Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, one of Canada's largest investment funds, is shopping around its 66 percent stake in Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team and the Toronto Raptors basketball team.

"The Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan today stated that it will explore the possibility of selling its 66 percent majority share of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment and will be making no further comment on the matter," the pension fund's administrators said over the weekend.

That is a radical change in tone from statements Teachers' made in December that it was not in talks, nor was it anxious to sell its stake in MLSE, which also includes the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League and Toronto FC of North America's Major League Soccer.

In December, the Toronto Star newspaper reported that Rogers Communications, Canada's biggest wireless company, which also owns cable-TV, media and sports businesses, including baseball's Toronto Blue Jays, was in talks to buy Teachers' stake in MLSE for C$1.3 billion ($1.34 billion).

The Globe and Mail said on Monday that Teachers' was asking about C$1.5 billion for the stake.

Citing high-ranking sources at Rogers, the Globe said that Rogers has very little interest in putting in a bid.

Jan Innes, Rogers' vice-president for public affairs, would make no comment other than saying: "There's no imminent change to our relationship with MLSE and we don't comment on rumor or speculation."

($1=$0.97 Canadian)

(Reporting by Pav Jordan and Alastair Sharp, editing by Dave Zimmerman and Peter Galloway)

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